There are several imposing favorites on Day 3 of the Royal Ascot meeting on Thursday, but we’ll be taking a swing against a few of them on what is normally the most highly-attended of the five days.
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1st Race, The Norfolk (G2)
With a fast pace assured, a horse that can make up a little ground in the final stages might be the way to go in this five-furlong dash for two-year-olds. #1 A’ALI (8-1) debuted at Ripon 15 days ago, smoothly advanced through the field to take the lead, but was outfinished late by a neck to a rival that had one previous start under his belt. Potentially talented youngster is sure to improve and picks up Frankie Dettori for this one.
#13 SUNDAY SOVEREIGN (5-2) has convincingly won his last two Ireland, including a three-length victory over Arizona, who captured Tuesday’s Coventry (G2). That alone makes him the horse to beat from a class perspective.
#11 REAL APPEAL (10-1) already has four starts underneath him, all in France, with three of those narrow victories. The latest came in the Prix La Fleche at Maisons-Laffitte. Debuts for new connections here after fetching £265,000 at auction earlier this week.
#14 VENTURA REBEL (10-1) and #5 EXPRESSIONIST (8-1) have both shown potential so far over this course, the latter being the first winner by his 2000 Guineas (G1)-winning sire Night of Thunder. A torrid pace could be set by #9 MISTY GREY (20-1), who couldn’t see out six furlongs in a wickedly-fast, mostly downhill Woodcote at Epsom, and the Wesley Ward-trained Aqueduct graduate #8 MAVEN (7-1), the first winner for Triple Crown hero American Pharoah.
2nd Race, The Hampton Court (G3)
#2 BUCKHURST (12-1) debuted only 2 1/2 months ago, but has already made noticeable progress. The Joseph O’Brien-trained son of Australia closed gallantly to win on debut by a nose over very testing ground at Leopardstown, was not disgraced when fifth to Broome in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (G3), and last time was only overcome by Constantinople in the final strides of the 10-furlong Gallinule (G3) at The Curragh, losing by half-length. Donnacha O’Brien stays aboard and mild progression puts him in contention at a price.
#3 CAPE OF GOOD HOPE (4-1), despite winning the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom, was wisely re-routed to the Prix du Jockey-Club (G1) earlier this month, where he finished fourth of 15. Though far from being one of Coolmore’s leading lights among the classic generation, this full brother to Royal Ascot winners Highland Reel and Idaho has been generally consistent from the start, including a pair of group placings last season in the Superlative (G2) and Royal Lodge (G2). A danger here, but not much value in the Win pool.
#15 SANGARIUS (8-1) was third behind King of Comedy (a close second in Tuesday’s St James’s Palace [G1]) in the May 23 Heron Stakes at Sandown in his season return, a race he undoubtedly needed having been off since October. A distant fourth to Too Darn Hot in the Dewhurst (G1) following career-opening wins at Newmarket and in a small stakes at Doncaster, this descendent of the blue hen Hasili has every right to progress further in this spot.
#6 FOX CHAIRMAN (9-2) didn’t have the best of trips when third to St James’s Palace hero Circus Maximus in the Dee Stakes at Chester, which was only his second career outing, and can come on from that performance. #12 KING OTTOKAR (7-1) has blown hot and cold in four outings thus far, perhaps finding conditions in the Chester Vase (G3) too deep last time in a race where he received quite a bit of backing.
3rd Race, The Ribblesdale (G2)
She might be the least fancied of John Gosden’s quartet, but #2 FANNY LOGAN (12-1) enters with some merits. She was beaten only a neck by stablemate Mehdaayih in her debut at Yarmouth last fall, and that rival went on to trounce Fanny Logan and others in the Cheshire Oaks, though she disappointed as the favorite in the Epsom Oaks (G1) after a rough passage. However, Fanny Logan’s Cheshire Oaks wasn’t bad given the state of the ground, and before then she ran to expectations winning a 10-furlong maiden at Wetherby. By Sea the Stars, she’s certainly capable of seeing out this trip better in more ideal conditions.
#8 QUEEN POWER (2-1) is a head away from being undefeated in three starts for Sir Michael Stoute. Passing on the Oaks after a late-surge win in the Fillies Trial at Newbury on May 18, she enters this with plenty of upside remaining and with relatively less exposure than many of the others in the field. She hasn’t yet gone 1 1/2 miles, but the extra ground should work to her advantage. However, she’s no sure thing at an expected short price.
#4 FRANKELLINA (7-1) narrowly missed in the Musidora (G3) two back when probably a race short, then wheeled back two weeks later in the Oaks in which she finished sixth. In general, it was a decent effort given Epsom is not to everyone’s taste, plus she raced outside in the straight which wasn’t necessarily the place to be. Trainer William Haggas and jockey James Doyle know their way around a good three-year-old filly being the human elements behind Sea of Class last year.
#3 FLEETING (5-2) outran her 25-1 price in the Epsom Oaks, gaining up the favorable inside part of the course after finding room. Aided to an extent by the bias on the Downs that weekend, she has the look of an underlay in trying to flatter that form here. #11 STAR CATCHER (10-1) was beaten a half-length by Queen Power at Newbury, a good effort in her stakes debut. She’s a Sea the Stars half to a pair of Royal Ascot winners.
4th Race, The Gold Cup (G1)
#4 STRADIVARIUS (6-5) is a veritable win machine, including six in a row dating back the past 13 months. He’s won a pair of Goodwood Cups (G1) and Yorkshire Cups (G2), among others, and now aims to land his second consecutive Gold Cup (G1) for trainer John Gosden. His Yorkshire Cup defense last month was more workmanlike than brilliant, but having had just the single run since August it was likely the best that could be expected. More critical eyes perhaps perceived impending weakness from the effort, and that might prove to be the case. However, the competition doesn’t seem quite as imposing as the 2018 edition that included Vazirabad, Order of St George, and Torcedor.
#9 FLAG OF HONOR (15-1), runner-up to Magical three times leading up to this, has plenty of class having won the Irish St Leger (G1) and placing a solid fourth to Stradivarius in the British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2). The main concern is that he figures to be prominent early and hasn’t yet traveled farther than two miles. It would be masterful if Ryan Moore can coax him the entire route, but even he can’t his relative class should enable to him to last for one of the bigger slices.
#6 CROSS COUNTER (4-1) is one of the logical candidates for second choice with victories in the Melbourne Cup (G1), Dubai Gold Cup (G2), and Gordon (G3) since last summer. However, he was the beneficiary of some relatively light imposts as a three-year-old facing older in the Melbourne Cup (112 pounds) and in his season debut in the Dubai Gold Cup (121), and gets a mere pound from Stradivarius in this first ever meeting with the staying champion. His consistency and ability to win speaks for itself, though.
#8 DEE EX BEE (5-1) was sidetracked after finishing second in last year’s Epsom Derby (G1), taking inopportune swings at other middle-distance Group 1s after trainer Mark Johnston had intended to focus on a St Leger (G1) bid. While the rest of the campaign proved fruitless, concentration on staying events this term has worked wonders with victories in the Sagaro (G3) and Henry II (G3).
Longshots: He’s probably not classy enough to get more than a piece, but the nine-year-old #5 THOMAS HOBSON (20-1) won’t be tiring going 2 1/2 miles as a multiple-year veteran of the 2 3/4-mile Queen Alexandra at this fixture. Second best to Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup in October, and should forward off a season-opening second in Berlin. #3 MAGIC CIRCLE (15-1) was well-supported in the Melbourne Cup, but made no impact after easy wins in the Chester Cup and Henry II. He’s another that should come on from his comeback attempt, in his case a third in the Ormonde (G3) at Chester contested in boggy going.
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